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struts
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Soundsmith Strain Gauge

Audiophile siblings!

Have any of you had the chance to have a good listen to one of these cartridge/amp combos in a really good system? (I wasn't at CES but people who were told me the all-SS system didn't do the cartridge justice at all) Well, I have, and based on what I heard I can't believe Mikey & Co aren't freaking out!

Am I the only one who thinks this thing is something pretty special?

dcstep
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge

Whew, I wouldn't trust anyone that told me I needed tubes to appreciate their product. That generally is a sign that it's awful and they've got something to hide.

Dave

Buddha
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge

I've seen/heard it and also got to hear the old Winn (spelling may be off.)

Something really nice they do.

I can't quite figure out how much they cost, though!

I tried to price one out on their website, with the "better" stylus, and have no clue!

I think it would retail at around 8-10 kilodollars with the most basic phono-preamp, which strikes me as not offering the value I would like. (Purely personal, not complaining, just opining.)

JasonVSerinus
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge

I love the sound of Soundsmith cartridges. I have the Voice, which now also comes I believe in an Ebony wood body model, and it sounds fantastic. Yes, the Strain Gauge has its own phono preamp, which may discourage some folks. But it has the most wonderful, lush sound. At CES, day after day, I watched people sit in silence at Peter played recording after recording. I wanted to talk with him at one point, but I couldn't even get into the room.

jason victor serinus

mjalazard
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge

Peter also does an excellent job in rebuilding cartridges. I had him re-tip an old Grace F9E Ruby with a worn stylus...The cartridge sounds great...essentially brand new. If you have an old favorite that needs to be resurrected, check Sound-Smith out.

Buddha
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge

I completely forgot about them doing that Grace cartridge.

Yup, they did a great job.

struts
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge


Quote:
I can't quite figure out how much they cost, though!

I tried to price one out on their website, with the "better" stylus, and have no clue!

I think it would retail at around 8-10 kilodollars with the most basic phono-preamp, which strikes me as not offering the value I would like. (Purely personal, not complaining, just opining.)

If I have understood things correctly you choose the preamp according to the functionality you want (apparently the SQ is identical across the range) and the cartridge (with the Nude Contact Line stylus) is included. You can then buy replacement styli at various prices including the top-of-the-line "Nude Optimized Contour Contact Line".

I believe the price range in USD starts at about $6k rising to $15k at the top end. Compared to a high-end cartridge and RIAA phono stage $6k is undeniably competitive, I think the problem is that given this is not exactly a "starter system" most (all?) prospective customers will already have a RIAA phono stage which becomes redundant in this application.

At $6k MHO is that this something of a high-end bargain. Compared to the best I have heard this thing represents a step change in SOA vinyl reproduction.

Buddha
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge


Quote:

Quote:
I can't quite figure out how much they cost, though!

I tried to price one out on their website, with the "better" stylus, and have no clue!

I think it would retail at around 8-10 kilodollars with the most basic phono-preamp, which strikes me as not offering the value I would like. (Purely personal, not complaining, just opining.)

If I have understood things correctly you choose the preamp according to the functionality you want (apparently the SQ is identical across the range) and the cartridge (with the Nude Contact Line stylus) is included. You can then buy replacement styli at various prices including the top-of-the-line "Nude Optimized Contour Contact Line".

I believe the price range in USD starts at about $6k rising to $15k at the top end. Compared to a high-end cartridge and RIAA phono stage $6k is undeniably competitive, I think the problem is that given this is not exactly a "starter system" most (all?) prospective customers will already have a RIAA phono stage which becomes redundant in this application.

At $6k MHO is that this something of a high-end bargain. Compared to the best I have heard this thing represents a step change in SOA vinyl reproduction.

I agree with you that the requirement of the additional hardware, which I think is not useful other than within the context of the strain gauge, does make for a "paradigm barrier" when I consider the costs.

I can change phono preamps or cartridges without the "committment" required of the strain guage. Maybe that colors my consideration of its "value."

As I said, that's my own mental block.

I am able to more readily think of a "typical" phono preamp and a cartridge as units that each have some idependent utility. With the strain guage, I gotta think of both as one - which is tough, in terms of dollars leaving my pocket.

Sorry if that sounds crazy, 'cause the "cartridge" sounds great!

Trying to think about what would move money from my hands to theirs, I would gladly toss away about half of retail for the pleasure of owning it. (I hope that doesn't sound base, just thinking out loud about how I spend and what that would seem to be "worth." Again, not a complaint, just talking gear.)

Of course, once I hit the Lotto, this will no longer be a consideration!

linden518
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge

There's a guy I know who has the Strain Gauge system with his TW Acustic Raven One/Graham Phantom. He used to have the Sumiko Celebration cart before along with the Tron Seven phono stage, and he's heard & auditioned a lot of carts. But he says the Strain Gauge system has the best string tones he's ever heard from a cart/pre system. I'm going over to his place next week to listen to some music... will give you an update afterwards.

linden518
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge

Just heard the Sound Smith Strain Gauge today. It was the least expensive version, the cart with pre-amp with no remote & no linestage (just for the SG input and 1 CDP input): $7500. The top of the line cart/pre-amp option is like $19K. But the thing is, there's no sonic difference between the top of the line option and the entry option. With the $, you just get fuller set of linestage features and ancillary functions, like the electronic display which reads the tracking, VTA, etc... Anyway, the cart was mounted on Raven One/Graham Phantom.

Really pretty. The cart lights up in blue, which looks pretty sexy against the black Raven/Phantom set-up. The pre-amp box, which looks kind of woody and pedestrian on the Sound Smith website, actually looks very classy and well-made, especially the touch-sensitive control buttons on the top. When the stylus hits the groove, the light on the button of the pre-amp changes from orange to blue. I can see a lot of people not digging it, but I thought it wasn't done in a cheesy way.

Another big plus: the stylus can be changed in matter of seconds. Nice. So if you're playing some records after some Jager shots, you don't have to pee your pants worrying that you're going to f*&^ up your mega-buck cart. The stylus attaches to the cart's body via this magnetic mechanism, pretty neat. So when your stylus needs replacement, you just order one & put it in yourself.

The sound? I can over-enthuse but I won't because frankly, I don't know how much of that sound should be attributed to the table or the arm. But I was pretty blown away. The bass was sublime & room-shaking. I could tell that the Strain Gauge cart is a smooth, fast tracker, at least. The music had a lot of pace. But the tone of all the instruments was bewitching (bear in mind, I still don't know what percentage of this sound is attributable to the Phatom and the Raven table.) Even on Wilco's latest, which was digitally recorded, the sound had body and depth which I hadn't heard before. Especially the Nels Cline guitar solo at the end of "Impossible Germany," the best song on that album, IMO. Also, Joe Pass's guitar on a Pablo recording w/ Oscar Robertson was so good...

Anyway, I'll stop. But it was just too good. I was impressed. The Raven TT sure does incite that lust in you. I wish I could listen again to that all-Shindo system w/ the Shindo Garrard & Devore Silverbacks that some of us heard a few months back, just to compare.

P.S. I found this video about the Strain Gauge on youtube, taped from the 2008 CES...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9RHwK1W5cro

struts
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge

Thanks for the report SD! I would love to hear the SG in more systems - including that one!

I have now had the opportunity to audition it at some length on a number of occasions in Audio Concept's reference system together with the Nordic Concept Artist MkII deck and Breuer Dynamic 8c arm (see this thread for some great pictures of this amazing system). As a benchmark I have previously heard this turntable with the NC arm (see pic in the 'spend my money' thread) and Dynavector XX-2 and XV-1s cartridges.

The thing that has struck me with the SG on each occasion, and pretty much regardless of the programme being played, was the incredible soundstage it throws. I have never heard anything match its ability to place real instruments in 3D space, you literally want to get up, walk around and shake the musicians' hands! The difference in this regard between the vinyl front-end and the 'Reference Line' mbl 1621A/1611F CD spinner (which serves as the digital front-end in the same system and is certainly no slouch) is quite remarkable. It sortakinda makes you wonder why we ever bothered with digital (oops, don't want to set AlexO off again!).

Robert, who designs and builds the NC Artist and who has heard it with many arm/cartridge combos, is quite lyrical in his praise of the SG and says he feels it plays in a different league to any magnetic cartridge he has heard. Robert is definitely not given to hyperbole and you don't often hear him use the word 'best' about any component - check out the lines he carries and you'll understand why. Another friend of mine with a truly amazing system (that I am definitely looking forward to hearing one day!) has had the opportunity to compare it at length with a number of contendahs for state of the art - including the ultra-rare Lyra Olympos, also swears the SG is the best he has heard.

I have to say the aesthetics (both cartridge and preamp) do nothing for me, but when I close my eyes... oh boy! So I am going to start saving my pennies and hope that by the time I can afford one it will be available in a slightly more sober 'suit'.

linden518
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge

Hi, Struts. Good to see my hunches corroborated by your experience, too, especially since you have FAR more experience than me. Yeah, I'm not a listen-to-that-soundstage kind of listener, but it was hard to miss, and hard not to be bowled over by it. On jazz sets, it really was eerie, as if you were really IN the set. I didn't want to jump to any conclusions because I couldn't tell how much of that quality I could attribute to the Sound Smith SG instead of the arm/table. But what I heard far surpassed anything digital that I've heard, and I've had a chance to hear some really high end digital sources, too. Again, I'd love to hear that Shindo rig I heard on our Analog Drunkards tour (Part 2 anyone?). The Raven/Sound Smith was definitely a different kind of sound from the Shindo, although both systems had that nice weight and body to the sound...

I do agree with you that the Sound Smith aesthetic is a little too Boogie Nights, especially if it is mounted on that really pretty & classy TT you posted about. But mounted on the starkly severe, black-on-black Raven/Phantom, the glowing blue cart did look cool as shit...

It will be interesting b/c within a week, I'll have an extended opportunity to listen to the Raven AC, most likely fitted with the Phantom & Dynavector 507 arms, maybe the 12" Ortofon 309D, too. Probably the Dynavector XV1s cart and Tron Seven phono stage. I'm going to suspend any judgment until I hear that, but if what I heard through the Raven One/Sound Smith AG is comparable to the more expensive Raven AC, I'll be REALLY impressed.

struts
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge


Quote:
I couldn't tell how much of that quality I could attribute to the Sound Smith SG instead of the arm/table.

SD,

I think I know what you mean but if so aren

linden518
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge


Quote:

Quote:
I couldn't tell how much of that quality I could attribute to the Sound Smith SG instead of the arm/table.

SD,

I think I know what you mean but if so aren

struts
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge


Quote:
On TT... soon, I'll let you guys know. I'm close. Oh yes, grasshopper. Oh yes.

Oooooohhhhh, now I'm really curious. If I were a betting man I would place a small bet that you're going to stay on that Anglo-Japanese tangent. But then again with the parlous state of the American peso right now all the value must be lurking closer to home... But then again methinks you do your evaluating with your head but your chosing with your heart. Hmmmmmm.....I'll be noodling this one from my deckchair. I'll be sure to check in when I get back!

linden518
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Re: Soundsmith Strain Gauge


Quote:
But then again methinks you do your evaluating with your head but your chosing with your heart.


You read me like a book.

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